Buckle takes hat off to fans as non-league Luton dump Canaries out
In terms of coming back to earth, the prospect of tomorrow night's FA Trophy tie at Grimsby Town ensured the players and staff of Luton Town kept their celebrations within reasonable bounds after they pulled off the FA Cup's most significant giantkilling for 24 years.
"In some respects it's a more important game because it's a competition we can win," said Scott Rendell, the journeyman striker – Luton are the 12th club whose shirt he has worn – who scored the goal which made the Hatters the first non-league side to knock out top-flight opposition since Sutton United beat Coventry City in 1989.
His words were accompanied by a smile though, because it is hard to imagine that lifting the FA Trophy will create the national and international headlines created by their performance against the Canaries. In some respects, said manager Paul Buckle, it was an easy game to prepare for.
"We knew they'd play the team that beat Peterborough in the last round and planned accordingly," said Buckle.
In short, the boys from Bedfordshire did a job on their illustrious opponents, and though Norwich manager Chris Hughton threw on three regular Premier League starters in Grant Holt, Anthony Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan during the second half, it was the three Luton replacements who made the difference to the outcome. Stuart Fleetwood's pass sent JJ O'Donnell down the left and Rendell got ahead of his marker Ryan Bennett to turn his cross past City goalkeeper Declan Rudd.
After years of almost unbroken misery, the 4,000 or so Luton supporters who had accompanied their heroes to Norfolk fairly exploded with joy. "I'm so pleased for the fans," said Buckle. "They've been right through the mill in the past few years. This win, and the win against Wolves in the last round, will hopefully keep them following us up and down the country."
More practically, it also means £90,000 is added to the approximate sum of £250,000 Luton reckon to have banked from this Cup run. Currently lying sixth in the Conference, one place outside the play-off places, Buckle's hope now is that he will be given the go-ahead to strengthen his squad for the run-in.
Hughton was gracious, as he always is. The six changes he made to the side last put out in the Premier League – and which was thrashed 5-0 by Liverpool – were as expected, but other than a great save from Tyler to deny Holt and Leon Barnett's header hitting the post, they rarely threatened. (© Independent News Service)